Date: Wed Oct 16 2002 - 02:15:51 EDT
<< As you may know, Gordon Wenham reviews the development and current state
of the Documentary Hypothesis in the introduction to his commentary on
Genesis (Word), as it applies to Genesis. Like you he considers the E
hypothesis questionable. I'm intrigued by his suggest that P may not be an
exilic source but rather antedate J and reflect 2nd millennium material. And
that P and J may be each based on a diversity of sources. He states, "In
short, if the J material goes back to a variety of fragmentary sources, and
the material conventionally called P also derives from a diversity of
sources, may it not be possible to see Genesis as basically the work of J
who used a number of relatively short sources to compose his volume?"
Hypothesizing J as the most significant editor of the book, he goes on to
say: "Whether the sources used by J were written or oral is moot. Genesis
is a written work but one designed for oral recitation. How far its oral
qualities are the work of J's genius, or how far it reflects the material he
used, is again difficult to say."
Do you have any thoughts or opinions about Wenham's views on this
matter? As a teacher of ancient literature, I agree with him that Genesis
was designed for oral recitation, just as were the Homeric epics, the
"Aeneid" and the gospels. As an admirer of J's story-telling genius, I am
struck by the notion that he might have been the final editor; however, I
should like to see more evidence and argument in order to be persuaded that
P is as early as Wenham and other scholars might think.>>
I am more prone to believe that P is later than J, but have never thoroughly
studied the dating issue. On the other hand, I do not see P as a late
originator of the materials in the Pentateuch generally attributed to him. I
see him as more of an editor than an originator, sort of a Matthew to Mark,
and bringing along his own traditional material which may indeed go back to
the second millennium BC.
Assuming that Gen 1 is from P, I think it is true that Gen 1 reflects second
millennium materials: the dividing of the primeval waters is only found
outside of Genesis in the second millennial creation story of Enuma elish,
and the order of the two accounts is quite similar. I see second millennial
Mesopotamian material all through Gen 1-11 and agree with Wenham that "most
of the stories found in these chapters are best read as presenting an
alternative world-view to those generally accepted in the ancient Near East.
Gen 1-11 is a tract for the times, challendging ancient assumptions about the
nature of God, the world, and mankind," p. xlv Whoever turns out to be the
final editor, this second millennial background is not going to go away and
is an important key to understanding these chapters.
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